The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost -- Proper 24A (10/19/2008)


Lessons: Isaiah 45:1-7 Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13] 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Saint Matthew 22:15-22 Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm: Exodus 33:12-23 Psalm 99

Prayer of the Day: Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts. Created by your, let us live in your image; created for you, let us act for your glory; redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Stewardship Text: St. John 14:25-31

14:25"I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

St. John 14:25-31, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

This month, at Saint Peter, we are conducting our Fall Stewardship Campaign. The theme is ASPEN, and the focus for this five-week series is:   10/5    Anxiety St. Matthew 6:25-34   10/12   Sacrifice St. Mark 12:41-44 10/19   Peace St. John 14:25-31 10/26   Enthusiasm St. Matthew 13:44-50 11/2    Now 2nd Corinthians 8:1-16 On November 9th, I'll return my attention to the Revised Common Lectionary, with a message based on St. Matthew 25:1-13.

This week's text is set during the last week of Jesus' life. He is at the table with those closest to him, and they eat a last meal together. Judas leaves to make arrangements with the authorities. Jesus commands them to love one another. Peter promises to stay true to Jesus, even if it costs him his life. Jesus tells them all that he is the way to the Father, and promises to send them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then he begins to speak of the peace of God.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (St. John 14:27)

It is a strange setting for words of peace. The religious leaders are hell bent to do away with him. The crowds are turning against him. One of his closest supporters has just betrayed him to the authorities, and another is about to deny him three times. It is a perfect recipe for fear and anxiety and discouragement.

But not only is Jesus at peace with the situation; he promises that no matter what his followers might go through in years to come (and they will go through some horrific times together), they too will experience that same sense of peace.

It makes no earthly sense, but that is precisely the point. The peace Jesus offers is not the peace that comes from feeling good about one's situation in life. His is the peace that comes from knowing that no matter how difficult life may become, we are right with God, who promises to be our strength and hope in all times, and that is the only thing that matters.

We are reminded these days of how critical that sense of peace is, and of how illusive it is when we seek it from any other source. Those of us who have felt secure about our future because of resources we've tucked away in stock portfolios are finding that there isn't as much security there as we had imagined. Those of us who have felt secure about our future because of our jobs, and the benefits that come with them, are finding that employment isn't as certain as it once was.

But to the degree that we are able to trust in God for our future, we receive a sense of peace that all the trouble of the world can't diminish. As Jesus says elsewhere: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (St. Matthew 6:19-20)

As we learn to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven - as we learn to trust in God (and not ourselves, or our accumulations) - we come to experience that peace which the world cannot give; that peace which the world cannot overcome.

Some people, in these difficult economic times, will become very anxious, and be tempted to decrease their support of Christian ministry. But others, who allow themselves to trust in God, will be filled with God's peace, empowered by a sense of hope, and find the willingness to grow in their support for and their enthusiasm about what we are doing together in Christ's name.

I pray that you, the readers of this devotional message, will be more the latter than the former. I pray that you will find strength in God during these trying times. I pray that your fear and anxiety will be overcome by the peace that comes only from faith.


David J. Risendal

Exploring This Week's Text:

  1. What was frightening about the last week of Jesus' life?
  2. How did his promise of peace help the disciples during that time?
  3. How did it become a resource for them, years after the death and resurrection of Jesus?

Connecting with This Week's Text:

  1. What causes me to be afraid today?
  2. How might I learn to trust God with more and more of my life?
  3. How is my support of Christian ministry an indication of my desire to trust God with my future?